Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dealing with Syncaine

I read both Tobold and Syncaine's blog regularly and I don't really have a vested interest in either blogger. I probably agree more with Syncaine philosophically but appreciate the tone and insight provided by Tobold.

As such, I was prompted to send Tobold an email privately when I read his recent entry about stopping Syncaine from slandering him all over the internet.

To his credit, he declined my suggestion citing that while he appreciated my "PvP Approach", the "personal attack stuff just isn't my style." And honestly, that more than anything else really illustrates the point that this blog war is one-sided.

Here is my email to Tobold in it's entirety:
"There is an old saying that says if you want all the people in the prison yard to respect your prowess, find the biggest guy in the yard and kick the crap out of him.

In this scenario, unfortunately, you are the biggest guy in the yard.

I have an unorthodox suggestion about dealing with Syncaine that I didn’t want to post in your comments. I’m a regular reader of both your blogs and I can tell you that he is hardly immune to all of the things YOU feel when he attacks you. Like most prominent internet figures, he takes his reputation seriously and doesn’t like when his credibility or opinions are undermined.

As I see it, you need to mostly continue to publicly ignore him. It bothers him that you have publicly declared you don’t read his blog, which is what prompted his apology (or truce) in January.

You can’t ignore him, but you can keep yourself from responding.

Secondly, I think you need to fight back. To defend yourself and to discredit him. And that means attacking him back in a very un-Tobold like way. So I would make one more Syncaine post, in which you do three things, a) state this is the last time Syncaine will be referenced on your blog (and stick to it), b) make a bunch of slanderous ad hominem and hurtful attacks (very aggressive, very un-Tobold like), and c) make a point of saying that these wars have always been one-sided BY CHOICE and this post is intended as an imitation of Syncaine’s style as an example of how you COULD have been responding to Syncaine in any real blog war.

If the attacks are done well enough, I think it will get the point across that this has never been a two-sided fight, but a one-sided shouting match.

Alternately, you could also attack him as someone OTHER than Tobold. You joked about creating a separate persona as Gevlon, but I think you DO need a separate persona if only to go on the offensive without creating the sensational ‘blog war’ drama that draws all the interest.

Now, the nice thing is that given the prominence of your existing blog, you can promote the other persona. And maybe, occasionally, set aside your stance to ignore Syncaine to comment publicly on the Tobold blog about something the evil persona wrote about Syncaine. I think that’s the real key because you could quote the persona, but denounce the ‘tone’ of the attack. Perhaps even comment about how this is exactly the type of thing you despise about the ad hominem attacks he makes at you.

It means attacking HIS credibility, HIS interests, HIS game, HIS financial stake in Darkfall, and most of all -- HIS faulty logic (of which there is plenty). Note that I'm not talking about the intellectual debates you've tried to engage with him in the past. I'm talking about using the same ad hominem attacks he uses against you to derail him.

And likewise, if he DOES post something hurtful on his blog, then you can respond to it under that other persona. I can’t say that any of this will make it go away, but it does give you a platform to at least respond and defend yourself without giving him what he wants (the traffic of a blog war)."

So why would I suggest such a Machiavellian approach? Because I think it's important to point out that the two players in this war aren't both fighting a war. I want him to fight back.

Or as I wrote on Syncaine's blog in the comments:
"The issue is that it gets promoted as a blog war when it’s really a one-sided shouting match.

On the one side, you have a very prominent blogging pundit commenting about the nature of MMOs.

On the other side, you have a rabid fanboi defending his turf.

The pundit doesn’t want to argue with the fanboi, but the fanboi won’t shut up.

In fairness, the fanboi wasn’t always a fanboi and was once disguised as a pundit himself. But something happened (WoW didn’t die?) and the pundit became consumed with fury.

At least… that’s how I read both blogs. "


Adam said...

I fail to see how Syncaine has "attacked" Tobold to the point of requiring this kind of response. Where's the slander you and Tobold are so up in arms about? This thing is way overblown and completely ridiculous and you're just fanning the flames.

Syncaine read Tobold's post (a post which was, quite honestly, inane and pointless), gave an opinion which consisted of some criticism and snide commentary--HARDLY slanderous or full of lies and personal insults, Tobold responds to it WITHOUT ACTUALLY READING IT, and everyone starts taking sides. Tobold's cronies acting like whiny little girls and Syncaine's gleefully telling the girls to grow a pair.

Tobold's response should be to either ignore it or respond not by whining about how mean Syncaine is, but by actually addressing Syncaine's wholly legitimate criticisms. To me, Tobold comes across as someone entirely unable to defend the absurd position he took simply because he was, as you say, the biggest guy in the yard. Someone calls him out on it and he starts crying? Fight your own battles, Tobold. You're a big boy.

Quietside said...

Not that my opinion will count for much, but Adam's spot on.

Prove you can fight back by setting up an alter ego and engaging in the same type of tactics that you accuse your opponent of using? What's the goal? If Tobold's position, logic and writing are that strong and Syncaine's attacks are from a position of weakness then there is no need to hide behind a false face.

To be honest, I would never have read any of Tobold's blog, good or bad, if I had not arrived there via a very convoluted route that began at Hardcore Casual.

Syncaine's desire seems to be for conflict, a dialogue or argument. I can see how he would view that as fun. In my limited experience Tobold avoids conflict and heated disagreement while maintaining a very superior (even smug) tone when it comes to things he disagrees with.

One of these bloggers will happily engage in battle. The other is currently taking shots from the cover of: "I don't read his stuff, but..."

So get in the ring or ignore him, but stop making yourself sound like a victim, especially if you're not reading his posts.

Anonymous said...

I'll agree with Adam and quiteside on this 'In my limited experience Tobold avoids conflict and heated disagreement while maintaining a very superior (even smug) tone when it comes to things he disagrees with.' the thing i find even more laughable is all the pats on the back etc Tobolds readers give him, he needs to grow a pair and thicken his skin.

sid67 said...

Let’s be very very clear about something: TOBOLD DOESN'T WANT THE FIGHT.

And Syncaine is relentless in bringing that fight to his door. It’s like trying to do the right thing and be the bigger man only to have the jackass keep poking you in the chest.

If it were me, and I’m guessing you, I’d hit him right smack in the fucking mouth and then step on his throat.

BUT – Tobold is not me, which is why he would apparently not stoop down to my level as I suggested.  Which, really, just proves the point that it’s a one-sided war.

Tobold is very much in the difficult position of facing someone determined to provoke that unwanted fight. A fight that benefits Syncaine but not Tobold.

For added complexity, if Tobold does respond -- it's exactly the "WAR" that Syncaine wants. Which is why I suggested all the subterfuge in my email to him.

The main thing is that Tobold already has an established audience and doesn't need the 'drama' of having a nemesis to attract people to his blog.

It would be one thing if Syncaine's posts were critical of "just" the ideas, but they aren't. His 'writing style' is full of ad hominem attacks and a condescending tone intended to belittle Tobold.

It's an attack on the messenger, not an attack on the message. For me personally, a 'style' like that doesn’t win the argument because it is not bound in logic or reason. Unfortunately, it’s all too effective at winning a forum war.

My suggestion was paramount to "fuck him, go on the offensive and show people what a WAR would really be like" which is something “I” would do but Tobold has no interest in doing.

And let's be clear about something -- Syncaine DOES attack Tobold every time he makes a post about him. Even if he doesn't outright slander him, he is consistently condescending to the point where he is mocking him. You don’t have to call someone an asshole to be an asshole.

Quietside said...

I'll agree with you Sid, Tobold says he doesn't want the fight, and Syncaine does take shots at Tobold personally and not just his ideas. On the other hand, Tobold keeps crossing the line between "I don't want to fight you." and "Help, help, I'm being oppressed!". His own fans have pointed out the solution, not to mention many folks on various forums throughout the day, ignore Syn. Gasp, shock, dismay. This is not rocket science, he will not and has not lost fans or readers because of Syncaine's evil attacks on his integrity, personal hygiene or romantic interests.

If he had not brought up these personal attacks, Syn would have had to find some other topic to rant about and we would not be having this discussion right now.

The summary for those who do not want to read my wall of text:

Tobold's approach to this is, in my opinion, passive aggressive at best.

Adam said...


Of course not, he wants to give everyone his opinion from a position of authority (read: popularity) and then question the mental stability of the only guy in town with the stones to challenge him. That's the point we're making. It irritates Tobold to no end that someone he considers immature and beneath him would actually have a problem with his commentary. That's his reaction to everything Syncaine has said to him or about him for the last 6 months, and that only emboldens someone like Syncaine.

And Syncaine is relentless in bringing that fight to his door. It’s like trying to do the right thing and be the bigger man only to have the jackass keep poking you in the chest.

How is Syncaine bringing the fight to his door? This is the internet. Syncaine's posting a response on his own blog. It's not like he's hacking into Tobold's blog and posting porn on it. Syncaine enjoys the debate, no question. But he's only relentless because Tobold is relentlessly smug and dismissive. Tobold refuses point blank to give credence to any argument grounded in that which he does not agree with or enjoy. His tone is one of "I know some people enjoy ______, but I don't, therefore ______ is completely unappealing to me and anyone who defends it is stupid or naive." Sure, Syncaine doesn't have to say anything, but I see nothing wrong with taking exception to opinions and claims you wholeheartedly disagree with. Again, like you said, Tobold doesn't want to engage in debate. Syncaine isn't forcing him to. They're both equally condescending, as far as I'm concerned.

If Tobold truly doesn't want a fight, he shouldn't be quite so aggressive in haughtily dismissing games/systems/designs which he doesn't personally like, especially if he hasn't actually touched them in seven years--or at all.

Attacking Syncaine for engaging in ad hominem attacks is self-defeating. Anyone can see that. Along with snide remarks, Syncaine levels legitimate criticisms at Tobold's often silly stances. That's what Tobold should be focused on, if he wants to take the higher ground. When someone calls you a name, back up your talk, don't just cry and run away.

sid67 said...

@Adam: All you need to do is read through the comments of Tobold's entries to see plenty of people 'have the stones' to challenge him. Syncaine is hardly unique in disagreeing with him.

But only one guy sits there consistently writing about why TOBOLD is wrong and not the TOPIC at hand.

I like Syn or I wouldn't be reading his blog, but he LOVES using fallacies like ad hominem attacks, hasty generalizations and bad correlative assumptions to support his position. Particularly when he doesn’t have a very rational basis for his OPINION.

Yes -- he often has some good point he's making -- but that point is increasingly only supported by a poorly crafted argument.

Tobold will happily engage in a solid logical debate (he's done so on my blog when I disagreed). But you can't blame the guy for not wanting to fight with a guy who uses internet forum flame war tactics.

Syn specifically targets Tobold and calls him out by name, talking about HIM as much as he does about any point he tries to make. They come as Troll posts and not a coherent and rational argument. That’s not to say those tactics aren’t effective. They are – which just makes it that much easier for him to fall back on it.

If you look at the comments I make on his blog, they are as much about disagreeing with how he phrases his argument as they are about his actual point.

I honestly don’t care one whit for Tobold’s feelings. I’m irreverent and an internet dickwad myself. But what I can’t stand is winning an argument through guerilla tactics rather than logic and reason.

What I was asking Tobold to do is to use the guerilla tactics himself – just once – to show what a REAL two-sided fight would look like rather than a one-sided shout down.

Anonymous said...


So are you the Just Joan agony aunt of the blogosphere now?

Lets just leave it to them to sort out, they are both grown men (well tobolds crying like a little girl but meh!)

Mig said...

I love all the huffing and puffing over someone making jokes and sarcastic comments in the oh so serious matter of MMOs. Tobold acts like he is some professor emeritus at Oxford discussing advanced physics and Syn is a 20 year old college student making ad hominem attacks in academic journals. Tobold decided to start a blog and put his ideas on games online for others to view and comment on. If he wants to control the style of argument that people use in posting comments on his blog then that is his prerogative, but to whine and carry on like he does when someone decides to use a different style on their own blog is even more childish than the ad hominem attacks of Syn. Maybe I am just not seeing this horrible life/career altering slander that Syn is spouting and am taking it as sarcastic and humorous dialogue about video games written on blogs.